Avera McKennan Hospital made statewide history in May after one of its gynecologic oncologists removed a patient's ovaries without making a visible scar. KSFY was there when that patient saw her doctor for the first time since her surgery.
Christina Chelgren from Sioux Falls just turned 44 she would quickly discover the best present she could get was from Dr. Luis Rojas with theAvera Women's Center for Gynecologic Cancer after he told her he could remove her ovaries without creating another visible scar.
In May Dr. Rojas performed a first in his field in this region by going through Christina's belly button with a single port for a laparoscopic surgery to remove her ovaries. In late 2008 Christina was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a lumpectomy and finding out her tumors were being fed by estrogen, she opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy in January. She was put on tamoxifen, but the medicine made her miserably sick. She said she had every single side-effect associated with the estrogen blocking drug.
Christina says, "In order for me to be taken off tamoxifen I had to have my ovaries removed to stop the estrogen from producing."
Christina was in disbelief when she learned that Dr. Rojas was participating in a clinical trial with the Cleveland Clinic to see if single incision ovary removal surgery leads to faster recovery with less pain meds, not to mention it leaves patients with 3 less scars which is typical of laparoscopic surgeries. She says she was just happy to be able to have her ovaries removed if it meant no more tamoxifen. So far so good! Christina was up and out of the house 4 days after surgery and was only on pain medications for a couple of days. Now 2 months later, she's even better.
Dr. Rojas says, "She did very well. The incision looks pretty good. There is nothing there but a belly button and that's the beauty of this."
Currently gallbladders can be removed with the single incision surgery. We featured the first one done in Sioux Falls earlier this year by Dr. Brad Thaemert (Surgical Institute of South Dakota) when we performed it at Avera McKennan. Up until May, never had any gynecologic surgeries been done through one incision through the belly button.
Christina says, "I feel really good. I'm back to work and starting to exercise."
Christina has already been put through the ringer. The last thing she needed was another battle scar to prove she's a fighter. We know she is and her smile is proof enough she's a survivor.
Christina wanted to get the word out to other breast cancer patients and survivors suffering with side effects to talk to their doctors because there can be other options. There was for her.